Amidst the overwhelmingly massive crowd of three million young people who gathered to celebrate the solidarity of the Catholic faith were forty-five Diocese of Orlando pilgrims. Experiencing the exuberance and excitement of the 31st World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, the land of Pope St. John Paul II, the small group of sojourners were called to reflect on the spiritual theme, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7).
Lasting twelve days, the trip not only transported travelers to cities of magnificent beauty, but also to the glaring atrocities of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. The stark contrasts of darkness and light, evil and goodness, hatred and mercy moved us to tears as we prayed for the million plus people slaughtered at the hands of the Nazis.
The trip included visiting the monastery founded by St. Maximilian Kolbe; participating in the celebration of Mass at the Basilica of the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy; celebrating the Stations of the Cross with Pope Francis in Błonia Park; praying at the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa; and venerating the relics of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, one of the patrons of World Youth Day. The excursion culminated with the closing prayer vigil and Mass at Campus Misericordia where the Holy Father proclaimed, “Let us remember this encounter, let us preserve the memory of the presence of God and his word, and let us listen once more to the voice of Jesus as he calls us by name.”
This article appeared in the August 11th edition of The Florida Catholic, Diocese of Orlando issue.